The Biggest Question for Each Montreal Canadiens Line in 2014-15
The Montreal Canadiens' 2014-15 roster is just about set, meaning it's time to start making line projections for the forwards.
A lot can, and will, change before now and the start of the regular season, but based on the Canadiens' current roster and their line combinations last season, here's how the team could line up on October 8:
- Line 1: Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
- Line 2: Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - P.A. Parenteau
- Line 3: Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Brandon Prust
- Line 4: Michael Bournival - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise
- 10th forward: Travis Moen
The obvious exclusion here is Jiri Sekac. With a great camp, or with any injury to a roster forward, he could easily start the season in the top nine.
But if Montreal stays healthy through camp, it won't want to hinder his development by having him play limited fourth-line minutes or be a healthy scratch. There's a good chance he starts the season in Hamilton.
With the lines above in mind, we can start to dissect the trios and the issues around them. Here's the biggest question for each Montreal Canadiens line in 2014-15.
1st Line: Can Max Pacioretty Score 39 Again?
Projected 1st line: Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Max Pacioretty had an incredible campaign last season, scoring 39 goals. Let's have a look at a few of his accomplishments:
- He was fourth in the NHL in scoring, the highest a Canadien has finished since Guy Lafleur in 1978-79, per Scott Matla at Habs Eyes on the Prize. Even more impressive considering he only played 73 games.
- His goals-per-game ratio of 0.53 was third highest in the league among forwards who played more than 35 games.
- His 39 goals were the most by a Montreal Canadiens forward since the 1993-94 season (Vincent Damphousse scored 40).
- He scored 19 more goals than the second-highest goal scorer on the Habs (Tomas Plekanec had 20).
Pacioretty was a dominant scorer in 2013-14, and the Canadiens will be counting on another huge statistical year next season. But will he deliver?
Scoring 40 goals in the NHL isn't something that comes easily, but Pacioretty is trending in the right direction.
First, he's still only 25 years old and has played just 319 career games. Last season was perhaps the first season of his prime, but there are still plenty more peak years to come.
Second, his shooting percentage of 14.61 suggests that he wasn't all that lucky last season. In fact, he ranks 49th overall in the league for shooters who played more than 41 games last season. There could even be room for improvement on this number in 2014-15.
Third, he scored 39 goals while averaging just 18:29 of ice per night. No one among the NHL's top 10 goal scorers had less ice time than him.
Finally, he did it in just 73 games. He missed nine due to an early-season injury, and it took him another seven games to score following that. If he can stay healthy next season, he could score 40.
2nd Line: Will Alex Galchenyuk Break Out?
Projected 2nd line: Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - P.A. Parenteau
The 2014-15 season has to be Alex Galchenyuk's coming-out party. The Canadiens need it to be.
The team lost a big piece of its offense when Thomas Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild. The addition of P.A. Parenteau will help a bit, but it's Galchenyuk who really has the talent to make up for that lost offense.
The third overall pick in the 2012 draft has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief NHL career, but he has yet to completely establish himself as an offensive force.
He was eased into the league in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, averaging just 12:19 over 48 games. He still managed nine goals and 18 assists, which isn't bad for a 19 year old.
Last season, injuries forced him to miss 17 regular-season games and two rounds of the NHL playoffs. He had 31 points in the regular season (13 G, 18 A) and three in the playoffs (2 G, 1 A).
He did provide a nice offensive spark for the Habs in the Eastern Conference Final, however, and perhaps this performance will give him the confidence he needs to take the next step in his development next season.
Galchenyuk will be entering his third professional season in 2014-15, yet he's still just 20 years old. There is still plenty of time for him to become an offensive star, but Canadiens fans will be hoping for a big breakout season come October.
3rd Line: Can Lars Eller Live Up to His New Contract?
Projected 3rd line: Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Brandon Prust
One question surrounding this line is who the right winger will be. It could be rookie Jiri Sekac if he impresses in camp or perhaps Dale Weise, but he seems better suited for a fourth-line role. Therefore, it seems probable that Brandon Prust will begin the year playing out of position.
But regardless of who the right winger is, the biggest question concerns the center.
Lars Eller avoided arbitration earlier this summer by signing a four-year, $14 million contract. He'll earn $3.5 million in 2014-15, which is the same that David Desharnais will be making.
Desharnais scored 52 points last season. Eller had just 26.
Granted, they play different games and have different roles on the team. Desharnais gets to enjoy top power-play minutes while feeding Pacioretty on a nightly basis. Eller gets third-line minutes, plays with checking wingers and kills penalties.
But still, Eller has the offensive talent, as he proved by scoring eight points in the first eight games of the 2013-14 season. He won't be expected to score a point per game next season, but the 40-point plateau would be considered a solid season.
Eller will be in the spotlight next season now that he has a new long-term contract. Canadiens fans will be expecting a big step forward from the 25-year-old Dane.
4th Line: Can Dale Weise Give a Repeat Performance?
Projected 4th line: Michael Bournival - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise
Some Canadiens might have questions as to what newcomer Manny Malholtra brings to the squad, but that's predictable: He'll win faceoffs, play solid defense and kill penalties.
The bigger question on this projected line comes from the right wing position—more specifically, Dale Weise. He was fantastic last season after being acquired in early February, there's no questioning that.
Yet the Vancouver Canucks, and the New York Rangers before that, basically gave up on the 26-year-old. Neither team liked the way he played or thought he had a future in the NHL, which is tough to imagine considering the way he played in 17 regular-season games and 16 playoff games with the Habs.
In a Canadiens uniform, he certainly looks like he belongs. He's fast, physical, gritty and even puts the puck in the net from time to time, like that beautiful game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Weise basically looked like the ideal fourth-liner. He played so well that he even skated with Montreal's top line for a few shifts in the playoffs when Thomas Vanek disappeared.
So, was that the real Dale Weise? Or will he take a step back to being the player he was with the Rangers and Canucks?
For a depth player like Weise, sometimes being put in the right situation can make all the difference. That seems to be what happened last season. He was comfortable in Montreal, and it showed on the ice.
As he heads into his second season with the Canadiens, Weise will be counted on to make a difference in games. Michel Therrien and his staff will be hoping his play doesn't regress to where it was when he was given up on by the Canucks.
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